Collage of UBWA Women's Conference speakers

Jillian Kemper knew she could evolve a women’s leadership conference into something more powerful than it had previously been.

When the chance to bring the Big Ten Women’s Business Connection Leadership Conference to Fisher presented itself, the operations management major jumped at the opportunity to connect and empower women at the college and beyond.

Kemper’s journey to conference leader started in January 2020. The rotating event — in-person and hosted at Michigan State University — was beneficial, she remembers, but it was focused primarily on connecting female students to corporate recruiters. When discussions in East Lansing shifted to the conference’s 2021 host, she lobbied for Fisher.  

Jillian Kemper
Jillian Kemper

In bringing the conference to Ohio State, Kemper, president of the Undergraduate Business Women’s Association (UBWA), was able to implement the organization’s vision for the reimagined event — one that leveraged the college’s vast and supportive network of alumni and friends while also emphasizing peer-to-peer connection by providing participants with informal breakout opportunities.

“We wanted people to hear from really powerful women and feel inspired and motivated to go on through their semester,” Kemper said.

Paula Bennett (BSBA ‘71), retired president and CEO of J. Jill, and Fran Horowitz, CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch, shared their professional experiences and insights related to emotional intelligence in an engaging keynote discussion and Q&A session moderated by Cynthia Turner, Fisher’s assistant dean and chief diversity officer.

“When you're able to hear from people that inspire you, it really makes you feel like all of your dreams, goals and aspirations can become a reality one day,” said Elizabeth Kazemi, a strategic communications major. “I realized becoming a CEO is not a linear path. Each of us has a unique story to tell and live.”

Kazemi, UBWA’s vice president of member relations, is one of the organization’s 203 members. Together, the student-led group is dedicated to empowering women at Fisher through professional development, philanthropy, community building, engaging discussions and events such as the Women’s Business Connection Leadership Conference.

“I had no idea what female empowerment was before college,” Kemper said. “At Fisher, I was able to own my strengths and become excited about developing them. You have the opportunity to feel known and to grow and succeed here, regardless of any background you come in with.”

Elizabeth Kazemi
Elizabeth Kazemi

When Fisher was selected to host the 2021 conference, worldwide lockdowns hadn’t yet pushed events to a virtual space. Kemper, along with her UBWA team, had made a variety of event-planning preparations — including selecting a location and reserving hotel rooms. When everything went virtual, many of those plans were abandoned and they had to begin anew.

Throughout the strenuous process, Kemper had an epiphany as it related to how she should lead.

“The number one thing I learned from this experience as a leader is the power of delegating,” she said, crediting members of the Women’s Business Connection Leadership Conference team Jaylen Vandemark, Madison Shimborske, Julie Redman and Casey Spangler for their help and dedication.

“I realized I had way too much on my list to accomplish, and I know there's other people that could have probably handled that task. I could have trusted them with it. Delegating is really hard and it's something that you have to do. It's a skill you have to develop.”

Kemper said Turner’s regular engagement with the student organizers not only provided them with crucial assistance and insight, but it also underscored the college’s commitment to promoting and building gender diversity in business.

“It showed she truly cared about the success of this event, which then shows the college really cares,” she said.

And the support didn’t stop there.

“A lot of faculty were emailing me and writing ‘Good luck this weekend! You're going to be great!’ There were all these different supportive statements,” she said, describing Fisher as “a powerful place to be as a woman.”

Through organizations such as the UBWA and other female-focused programming, Kazemi said she’s excited by the momentum that has been created to increase representation of women in business.  

“I walked away from the event feeling part of a bigger picture and movement for empowering women in business and being part of the change that I want to see,” she said.

I walked away from the event feeling part of a bigger picture and movement for empowering women in business and being part of the change that I want to see.

Elizabeth KazemiVice President of Member Relations, Undergraduate Women's Business Association